Tuesday, October 28, 2003


I’m at work and I’m ill. Properly, unable to do anything ill, not a bit chesty, I don’t have that flu people who don’t actually have flu get. The flu that manifests itself as a slightly irritating cough and a runny nose. No, I have a flu which renders me unable to do anything. Well, apart from foolishly drag myself into work so not to break the record of not having had a day off work for 13 years. I played football last night, but the aches and pains are nothing to do with my fitness or lack thereof. Emma’s had it, her kids at school had it, and now I have it. Ill.

Nobody cares of course, you say that you’re feeling terrible and people make neutral comments like “There’s something going around”. The coughing interrupts your sentences, making you sound like you’re putting it on for effect. Nobody wants to be my audience; nobody wants to watch me play out my ordeal, my head in my hands, the shuffle to the kitchen. Despite inviting people to join me, nobody wants to follow me to the toilet and watch me sit in a cubicle for 20 minutes slumped up against the wall. Nobody wants to get inside my head and really know how I’m feeling, and how brave I’m being.

I shouldn’t be here. I should be at home, in bed. But I have a week of emails to get through having been in York last week. I want to have a day off on Friday, and don’t feel its right to run sick days into holidays. The thought of driving home fills me with dread. I know, I’m patently stupid, you have no sympathy for me.

I shall tootle along until three, then I’m going. I’m not having any lunch, because I can’t face it. If I go at three I’ve practically done my hours and the run will remain unbroken.

I feel awful, I really want you to know that.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Modern life is rubbish

Work has consumed my time, my thoughts and everything over the last six weeks. It’s had a peculiar effect on me; I’m not sleeping, I’m suffering from a very uncomfortable frozen shoulder, but more than the physical, it’s sucked my imagination dry and distracted me from the things that I consider makes my life worthwhile; family, friends, music, football. Even trying to write to this site, I’ve sat trying to articulate the few ideas that have permeated the fug but as soon as I sit down the ideas, the energy, and the flow of thoughts all dry up.

Some people get to have their work and their life on the same continuum. I imagine musicians and sportsmen don’t see any real divide between what they do to pay the bills and the rest of their life, but for most of us work and life appear to be very different things.

It’s not right; our lives should be our lives. A linear progression from birth to death during which we do everything we want, whenever we want. Instead, five sevenths of our time we’re diverted into the work cul-de-sac which is full of frustration, politics, incompetence, dealing with people you would normally cross the street to avoid.

It’s a peculiar thing. My ambition at work, and what keeps me doing what I’m doing, is to make something that doesn’t work, work well. It’s because I think I can achieve this that I don’t run away and live in a hole in the ground. But despite this ambition, the truth is, I don’t really care if it doesn’t work. If someone tells me I’m not allowed to see any one of my friends in the future I’d be devastated. If someone informed me that I couldn’t achieve what I want to achieve at work, I’d greet it with a shrug of the shoulders. None the less, I still follow this foolish ambition to make the company I work for, the best it can be.

I could have it all wrong. I work for a company that relies on volunteers to do a lot of its work. It has very clear ethical guidelines that ensure these volunteers don’t exploit the company for their own gain. But the rules are flaunted continuously and people are making money left, right and centre. They should be working for a ‘greater good’ but most are doing it for their bank accounts and egos. I could use the company to improve my personal wealth if I wanted to. I could increase my income by up to 50% by ramping up my expenses on meaningless meetings all over the country. I could have twice as much holiday by taking days off sick or sneaking home when the boss is away. Nobody would bat an eyelid if I did. But with me, if someone invites me to a networking lunch in Bristol, I turn it down in favour of a day in the office trying to meet the company’s objectives. It seems hopelessly naive.

I’m not a blind company man; I just think this is the right way to work. But it causes me so many hassles. My salary is my salary, I don’t claim anymore expenses than I should. So I have a little less to spend at the weekends than I might have. I haven’t had a day off sick since the half term before my A Levels thirteen years ago. So I get five weeks holiday and no more. I put a lot of energy trying to block people who are just trying line their pockets or egos in the name of being a volunteer because I don’t think it helps the company and I don’t think its right. I know some people don’t like me because of it, and I worry about what is being plotted behind my back. I wonder whether it’s really worth the hassle.

On the other hand, I’m punching well above my weight in terms of my role and responsibilities. People far brighter than me at school, who went to better universities, are not doing nearly as well as I am. By doing what I do, the way I do it, I’ve had great holidays in Paris, Barcelona, Majorca, and Italy in the last twelve months and still have Las Vegas to come in February. I watch Oxford play football, and buy records and can still afford to eat. More importantly I have the best group of friends and family I could ever hope to have. Presumably, like I do with them, they stick by me because of who I am and the way I am. If I was different I’d have a different life, with different friends. Perhaps your working life does reflect on your real life in a more profound way than by just paying for it. Given that I don’t want a different real life, perhaps I should stick with the same working life I have.

Maybe modern life is not that rubbish after all.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Whistle while you work

Occasionally I’ll receive a text message from Simon hailing the virtues of some CD he's listening to at work. You wonder why many IT projects fail? Probably because IT consultants are listening to Acid House whilst building your fully secure online banking service.

"Ooh I must remember to encrypt the current account details...WHOOOHOO here comes the breakdown WHISTLE POSSE WHERE ARE YOU!... now where was I, oh yeah, coffee"

Quite how he manages to concentrate on anything whilst listening to the headrush of Hardfloor Acperience is anyone’s guess.

I like listening to music whilst I work; my A Level revision was done to the magical tones of The Orb’s UFOrb, Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, and the Aubrey Mixes. When I used to work at home, a carefully selected CD warbling in the background increased my productivity and eased my working pains.

“If this annoys you, I can turn it off”

I couldn’t actually hear anything, but it turns out The Woman At Work has Dido playing on her laptop. Now, of course I can here the tinny top end of each tune, awful whimsical music, played through terrible laptop speakers at a volume which is a fraction above audible a fraction below clear.

Heaven, absolute bloody bliss.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Latest news

I seem to have slipped into a parallel universe. Usually I have time to muse about the world and the universe, construct complex theories on life, and weave comical set pieces which lighten the heavy burden of our times, then forget them all and post gibbering rubbish on this site. Not at the moment though.

On a totally unrelated note, should planning be about ensuring you have a manageable and consistent flow of activities, not having, for example, 21 projects to manage in the last three months of the year, compared to 4 in the first three months. Also, you know that thing about how authority and responsibility should go hand in hand? How you shouldn’t divorce the two? You shouldn’t assume the latter without the former. And, on balance you shouldn’t devolve all responsibility when things go bad and assume it when they get sorted out. Should you, SHOULD YOU?

Anyway, enough of conceptual thoughts not grounded in anyone’s experience of the last couple of weeks. What else?

Emma graduated from her Headteacher qualification course and received a paperweight for her trouble. A metaphor, said the guest speaker, “The paper can wait”. Alyce hurt her back falling off a horse. Well, I say hurt, broke it is more accurate. She’s in a back brace, but she’s going to be OK, although apparently a bit shorter.

Scant consolation I know, but we went to visit her in hospital on Sunday and had a couple of hours chatting and reminiscing. It was ace. Poor Alyce had been stuck lying on her back for a week and was bored silly, we suggested, helpfully, you’ll agree, that she could count the dimples on the ceiling tiles.

“174” she replied.

I tell you what though, she’s dead funny Alyce, we had a great time.

Oxford are on fire after a humbling defeat to Reading (more of that below for the benefit of Linhope stalwart and Reading fan Barry) so it’s happy days. Imagine if my life was blighted by people who couldn’t plan and people who assumed authority but no responsibility?


A bloke at the football has a replica shirt emblazoned with the legend ‘We 8 Reading’. This is nearly as perplexing as the gutsy singing of the Hokey Cokey at the Kassam recently; how on earth do you…“do the Scott McNiven and you turn around?” I’m perplexed because much as we try to 8 Reading, no Oxford fan can really bring themselves to do it.

Hence, the banks of the East Stand faithful sing “We hate Reading (‘suppose) and we hate Reading (‘suppose)”. OK, well, they don’t, but they did sing “You’re only here ‘cause it’s Oxford” to Reading fans who were indeed only there because their team was playing in Oxford which does strip the song of the irony it had when it was sung to 30,000 Arsenal fans at Highbury.

Like the game at Highbury we were cut to ribbons by a Reading side who passed their way through our lumbering back five on countless occasions and enjoyed considerable shooting practice from the edge of the six yard box. Oxford are a team built for the third division, Reading for the first. Oxford’s pitch offers, quite literally, too level a playing field upon which expensively constructed teams are invited to outclass us. It’s all so clinically obvious, it’s difficult to be bothered about it.

I wandered whether it was just me but the blokes behind me confirmed it wasn’t. When they spotted the bloke in the We 8 Reading shirt one turned to the other and asked…

“Do you think he 8’s writing too?”

To which his mate replied, in a rare moment of quality East Stand humour

“He probably 8’s all school”

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